Nonna Mary's Gravy
You say sauce, I say gravy, sometimes I say sauce, but regardless....let's fight! It's the age old battle of Italian-Americans. Growing up we always referred to certain things as gravy and certain things as sauce. My deduction has pretty much been if it's hearty and full of meat, it's gravy (bonus points if you cook it on Sunday), if it's meat free or with with sea-food, then its a sauce. I'm not here to stir the pot (ba-dump-dump), I try to avoid this rage-causing debate, while others run to battle, wooden spoons raised. Personally I don't care what you say, as my husband loves to point out, half of the words I say aren't recognized by Websters. I only care what it tastes like.
This gravy from my Grandmom Mary was her staple for polenta all spianatora, "polenta on the board", one of my absolute favorite traditions of my family. When making polenta like this, you pour it on a large wooden board and serve it as such, with the family basically eating off the table. I have so many beautiful memories of this meal as a kid, one of my favorites was one night at my Grandmom Jo's where we ate the polenta into the shape of the USA, I ate Florida. There are so many different sauces or gravy that you can put on polenta, this one relies heavily on pork and tiny meatballs. If you don't have a board, don't worry, it tastes the same on dishes and this sauce is not relegated to only being served on Polenta. You can serve it over pasta too. Just last night I served it over Rigatoni.
Serves 8 - 10
Pre-heat your oven to 350
What Do I Need
1.25 Pounds Italian Sausage
2 Pounds Pork Tenderloin slice in 1.5" rounds
80 Ounces of Tomato Puree or Passata Di Pomodoro
2 T Tomato Paste
1 large Yellow Onion
Salt & Pepper
Pecorino Romano Cheese for serving
1.5 Ilbs Beef, Pork & Veal Mixture
1 Egg Yolk
1/4 Cup Bread Crumbs
1/2 Cup Pecorino Romano Cheese
2 cloves of garlic
1 t dried parsley
2 T passata or chicken broth
S & P
Don't forget your pasta or polenta! For pasta I prefer a Rigatoni for this and this recipe will make enough for 2 pounds or just serve one and freeze the remainder of your sauce for a rainy day! For Polenta, follow the instructions on your packaging!
Salt and Pepper your cut pork & poke holes in your sausage with a fork, Heat a large pot and add a healthy drizzle of olive oil, next brown your pork on both side, about 4 minutes total - remove from pan and set aside in a bowl. Now add your sausage and brown well, next add 1/4 cup of your passata or tomato puree and stir up all the bits from the bottom, let cook for about 1 minute while you stir up all the goodness from the bottom of the pot. Now add the rest of your passata or tomato puree. Peel your onion and stab around the sides with a fork, place it in your sauce, mix gently but well and lower your heat to a simmer.
Time to make your meatballs!
In a medium bowl mix all of the ingredients listed under the meatballs above! Mix well with your hands and then roll into 1" balls and place on a baking sheet. Cook for 12 minutes, then remove from oven and gently add to your simmering sauce.
Allow to simmer for 60 - 90 minutes, stirring often and monitoring heat as to not allow the bottom to burn. With 30 minutes to go in your cooking of the sauce in, gently add in your pork. Set your timer for 30 minutes because the pork can overcook quickly and you don't want to lose that tenderness!
Take Note: My Grandmother Mary cooked with a lot of pork, it's a popular ingredient in the region my family comes from. Her original notes call for a pork loin, which is a different cut then the tenderloin. For some reason, my loving husband, who does most of our grocery shopping always brings back a tenderloin. So, I just changed the recipe a bit to adapt for a shorter cooking time for the pork. Tenderloin is quite lean and can overcook quickly! If you use a loin or even a pork chop, you can add them when you have about 40 minutes of cook time remaining in your sauce.
Cheese Rind Cheat: I keep a zip lock of cheese rinds in my refrigerator and whenever I make a sauce or compatible soup, I toss one in! It adds a beautiful depth of flavor!